Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2019-2020 (archived)


Department: Geography


Type Open Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2019/20 Module Cap


  • None.


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • The aim of this module is to expose students to current thinking in risk research through the Institute of Hazard and Risk Research programme of seminars, given by both Durham and external staff and to use this exposure as a means of training students in the generic skills of interpreting, criticising and synthesising emerging research. The risk industry and allied fields (disaster reduction, security, development, humanitarian relief, others) has a new found appetite for using cutting edge ‘knowledge’ and perspectives (e.g. notions of ‘evidence-based’ practice; catastrophe modeling and the forms of investment of the leading reinsurance brokers; notions of gender in disaster management; others) which in turn requires graduates who are skilled in critical interpretation and synthesis of new knowledge.


  • Students will attend the IHRR programme of seminars, which include both internal (Durham University) and external speakers. External speakers will provide students with the opportunity to meet and interact with top academics and practitioners in the field of risk. Seminars based on internal speakers will have a subsequent workshop to work through readings, material and relevant questions related to the topic delivered. Students will complete: (1) a detailed formative report on one seminar; and (2) a detailed summative report on one seminar.
  • Previous seminars have included: Managing Risks Whilst Sending Staff to Difficult or Hostile Environments, Resilience: An Alternative Conceptualization of the Growing Role of Private Businesses in the Provision of Security in the European Union?, The Water, food and energy nexus: risks and responsibility in a climate challenged world, Protecting communities from volcanic emissions – building evidence to aid disaster management, Land sliding in the aftermath of the 2015 Nepal earthquakes, Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 and its call for science and technology implementation, Strategies for navigating adverse social environments: how residents of deprived urban neighbourhoods try to maintain their health and wellbeing, Landslide-tsunami and flows that break seafloor data cables - gaps in the UK National Risk Register?, Greening Cityscapes and Well-Being: Theory and Practice in Green Social Work

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will have an in-depth understanding of a range of contrasting topics in risk
  • Students will have a very detailed understanding of one major topic in risk
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students will be able to engage in constructive criticism of a set of very different risk topics
  • Students will be able to synthesis the core messages emerging from contrasting risk topics
Key Skills:
  • Written communication, notably critical synthesis of core messages
  • Deliberative and discursive skills in response to oral presentations

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • This module is based upon 10 seminars arranged by IHRR and the Geography Department in Terms 1 and 2, which students will be required to attend. Five of these seminars will be based on external speakers (2 hour seminars), and students will be provided with an opportunity to meet and interact with top academics and practitioners in the field of risk. The other five seminars will be based on internal speakers (Durham University; 1 hour seminars). They will have a 1 hour workshop attached to them to allow students to practice their deliberative and discursive skills. Thus, each student has at least 20 hours of contact time and 130 hours of independent study. Students will be given formative feedback on their practice report via a peer evaluation exercise, offering them the opportunity to better understand and engage with the Department’s assessment criteria.
  • Summative Assessment: The summative assessment will be a critical, in-depth review of one of the seminars (3000 words). A different seminar should be used than in Formative Assessment 1 (see below). The summative assessment report should include the following sections: 1. an overview of the seminar, including a discussion on how research questions were constituted, how they reflect on-going academic debates and how these were translated into an operational piece of research. 2. The research findings as reported in the seminar. This should include an analysis of why the findings are to be considered as relevant and how they have contributed to our state of understanding of risk. 3. A critical appraisal of the seminar. This may take various forms. For example, you may reflect on the strength or weaknesses of the research in relation to other empirical literatures. Or you may discuss the limitations or strengths of the conceptual underpinnings of the research. Or you may seek to extend the argument developed in the seminar in novel directions.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars (2 hour seminars based on external speakers)* 5 bi-weekly 2 hour 10
Seminars (1 hour seminars based on internal speakers) 5 bi-weekly 1 hour 5
Workshops (immediately following the internal speaker seminar)* 5 bi-weekly 1 hour 5
Self-directed learning 130
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Report on seminar Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Report on seminar 3000 words 100% Yes

Formative Assessment:

There will be one formative assessment, towards the end of Term 1. It is designed to build skills towards the summative assessment of Term 2. * Formative Assessment: The formative assessment consists of a 1000-word report on a seminar of your choice. The report should briefly note the key themes of the research presented in the seminar, important findings and outline strengths and weaknesses of the research presented. Discussions should be expanded in this longer report to compare and contrast the research presented with other related material. Feedback on this formative will primarily take the form of peer evaluation, through an exercise organised and overseen by the module convener. This peer evaluation exercise has a range of objectives beyond simply providing feedback to students on their written work, including to familiarise students with the marking criteria and to generate additional learning by asking students to apply such criteria to the work of their colleagues. Additional general feedback will be provided by the module convener (generic comment based on what was observed). This peer evaluation will be complemented with specific feedback to be provided by the module convener to each student.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University